A Beginner’s Guide to the Public Breastfeeding Debate

According to society, three subject ought not be brought up in polite conversation: religion, politics, and public breastfeeding. These are subjects encompassing countless years and countless factors, all the little things that leads to a person’s experience and deeply held views. If you wanted to hear heated words and perhaps see friendships end, bring up religion or politics. If you want to see a blood bath, bring up your opinion on public breastfeeding.

There is no better place for the great public breastfeeding debate to occur than the internet. Here, everyone with a WiFi connection can give their views, and as I discovered the views ran the gamut. While most people seem to be okay with breastfeeding, the when and where is all over the spectrum from bare it all to stay in the home until weaning is through.

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So, for your greater understanding, here are some brief summaries of the philosophies I’ve seen via a great many forum/comment section arguments. I will present them, more or less, from most conservative to most liberal:

Breastfeeding is just plain wrong!

Yes, most people seem to be okay with the idea of a mother using her breasts to nourish her infant. But as it turns out, there is still a small number of people out there who think otherwise. This is usually due to generation or culture. Over the decades and centuries breastfeeding your own infant has gone in and out of popularity and common decency. For a good chunk of the 20th century, particularly since baby formula went on the market, breastfeeding was considered common, poor, and rude. My grandmother explains that in her day, breastfeeding was viewed as something only those in poverty did. Other cultures view breastfeeding as sexual and thus a sin against a child. The colored community has a difficulty history with breastfeeding (I can’t go into proper detail here, but I recommend looking it up, it’s enlightening and also comes with a movement to encourage breastfeeding among women of color.) In other scenarios, for no particularly describable reason, breastfeeding is just wrong. People of this category will argue breastfeeding should not be done at all, neither public or private.

Breastfeeding should be done at home

This perspective holds that breastfeeding is an intimate act of love and nurturing that ought to kept inside the home. This keeps babies in a safe, comforting place and some argue away from germs and voyeurism. The mother can attend to her baby’s needs without hassle and, most importantly, with the ability to give her full attention to baby’s needs. Errands are ideally done by others. A mother who is outside the home breastfeeding has made a serious error in scheduling and is putting lesser needs above the importance of caring for her child.

A bottle of pumped milk or formula is the proper alternative to public breastfeeding

If a mother must get out of the house and isn’t able to schedule her child’s feedings accordingly, the ideal choice ought to be a bottle. A mom can pump milk for a bottle or have formula available. This balances the needs to the hungry baby with either common decency or the mother’s modesty and pride, depending on the view. A mom can pull out that bottle and feed the baby and everyone wins.

Common arguments against this: Not all babies are happy bottle-takers, not all moms can pump, not all babies like formula.

Find a private place to breastfeed

If breastfeeding needs to be done outside the home, a mother can find a quiet, secluded spot where she can nurse her baby. The mom has an intimate, peaceful time breastfeeding where she away from prying eyes and distractions–as possibly does the baby. She can rest and enjoy her baby. On the side of the public, a breastfeeding mother is no longer in public. Choosing to excuse oneself from the business of the public is proper, discreet, and respectful while still providing a nice retreat for mother and baby.

Breastfeeding moms should cover up!

This view sees little reason to lock breastfeeding mothers away while they feed their children, but believes covering up is the way to go.

There seems to be two schools of thought here:

Breastfeeding moms should cover up for their own comfort: A modest woman does not want her chest exposes even when a baby is there. A woman hates the idea of people seeing her breasts, glancing her way purposely or an accident. A mother just feels happier and more comfortable when she is covered up as she breastfeeds.

Breastfeeding moms should cover up for the comfort of everyone else: This perspective holds simply that no one else wants to see a woman’s breasts. The arguments are more detailed: this can cause sexual thoughts in others, can expose something to children they aren’t ready to see, public display of breasts is immodest and indecent for the community, or they just make others generally uncomfortable. Here, the rights of the group trump the rights of the individual. More people are uncomfortable than comfortable, majority wins.

Breastfeeding in public ought to saved for emergencies

This view holds the same as covering up, but allows for a little wiggle room. Sometimes, life happens. A mom can’t find a convenient private spot, or doesn’t have anything with which to cover up, etc. She tries her best, her best isn’t ideal, oh well. Everyone here needs to be respectful, consider the situation, and relax a little.

The establishment should get its wishes

Individuals with this view may or may not be public breastfeeders themselves, but that has nothing to do with the matter. Nursing mothers should consider the wishes of those around them, particularly the owners of whatever public place they are in. In other words, if someone involved with the public place in question asks you to leave or cover up, the respectful and proper thing to do is follow the wishes.

Breastfeeding uncovered in public should not be shamed

These public breastfeeding defendants see breastfeeding as a natural act that has been too long suppressed (see the first couple of views) and needs to be normalized. A mother who is breastfeeding in public and uncovered should not be scorned or shamed or punished. This mom is doing her best by her baby and putting her baby’s needs and perhaps even her own convenience ahead of others. Human nature happens to make herself and her offspring more important to her than the feelings of others: Her baby needs to eat, and she will feed her baby the way she sees fit at the time she sees fit.

Breastfeeding uncovered in public should be celebrated

This takes the last view into a greater territory. Breastfeeding is natural, but also beautiful and tender. There are few things greater than one person nurturing another little human and it’s wonderful be it in private and public. This view seeks to normalize breastfeeding and celebrate it. The breast should not have unnecessary sexuality attached to it, and a society where mothers can freely bare their breasts in order to feed their babies is a great one indeed.

Some views and arguments that fit in various places on the spectrum:

Breasts are sexual vs Breasts are functional

This argument is based around the conflicting ideas of breasts being sexual or gross bodily function organs or being natural, baby-feeding organs. Often you can find the argument about urinating/defecating, having sex/masturbating, or even oral sex in public as comparisons to public breastfeeding. The argument against this is that breastfeeding is not relieving waste matter or giving a sexual thrill and therefore cannot be fairly compared with the former.

Another version of this is that breasts are for the bedroom, being primarily sexual objects. The counterargument is that breasts are scientifically considered a secondary sex characteristic in the same category as facial hair and are primarily for feeding babies, not sexual pleasure.

There is a middle road here that says breasts are meant for both nurturing and sexual pleasure, and circumstances best dictate how the breasts are used.

Bathrooms

This is a hot topic based on the idea of finding a secluded spot to breastfeed. Google this and you’ll find plenty of women who were told to nurse in bathrooms.

One argument is this is a quick, usually available way to appease the public. Bathroom stalls are private and out of the way. Problem solved.

The counterargument is that bathrooms are disgusting and germ-filled and that no one else would eat their food in a bathroom.

Rights

This was touched upon before, but it’s pretty much the center of the public breastfeeding debate. Who has the best claim to their rights?

Some argue on the more conservative view, with the rights of many trumping the rights of the few. These people see moms who breastfeed in public as being selfish and inconsiderate. They argue they have the right to go out in public, eat a meal, etc., with reasonable expectation they won’t be forced to see something they do not wish to see. These people usually want the problem solved by staying home to begin with, using a bottle, covering up, getting a room, etc.

On the more liberal view, the rights of the individual come first. A breastfeeding mother figures as long as she is harming no one she has a right to be in public and feed her child as she wishes. She has just as much right to be in public as anyone else and she is willing to fight for her needs and wants before those of others. These people usually want the problem solved by others turning their heads, keeping silent, ignoring the problem, or even just making friendly conservation.

There they are, the bundle of perspectives I’ve seen on the internet. I’m not sharing my own opinions on the matter in this post, but I merely wanted to give a little light on what so many people believe.

And give the warning this is a very passionate topic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night-Time Potty Training: When You Have No Other Choice

Last summer, Layne and I decided to look into getting First Gem potty-trained. She was 2 years old, why not? So we bought the potty chair and some books and some stickers and went about our lazy way of potty-training our girl. That summer she did not seem particularly interested, but fall came about and the potty became a more familiar thing.

Flash forward to the new year. I still would not call First Gem potty-trained, but she is getting there. Sometimes she’ll go days without an accident, other days will have multiple accidents. She has had the number two thing down, fortunately, for months now. We just have to work on Number 1. For any caretakers out there, my guess is there is a big difference between that big discomfort in your bum and the need to tinkle. I’m just happy to be done with her poopy bums (Second Gem still has that newborn stuff, so I have a way to go).

What we have not tackled is the night time. First Gem has a second cousin a month younger than her, a premie child daughter of my brilliant cousin, who has been beating through milestones since the day they let her out of NICU. My cousin and his wife believe she is gifted. I have no knowledge of gifted, but she is a cute and clever girl. She was potty-trained at 18 months in one week at the promise of a drum set. (Make mental note of drum sets). But apparently this little musician, as I discovered during a tentative potty-training conversation last Thanksgiving, still wears a diaper to bed every night. So if this genius child is still wearing a diaper to bed, we’re still good at my house.

Until the other night.

When our potty-training went into full seriousness and First Gem seemed to be getting the theory, we pretty much ditched the diapers. We buy knock-off pull-up diapers, but those are for preschool and, obviously, night-time. I found I could no longer mentally tolerate changing more diapers than I had to, and while I admittedly like the pull-up style for easy-off despite the expense, cloth panties seemed the way to go.  But the pull-ups were the go-to for the night. A week or so ago, noticing we were running low on our night-time daughter protection, I had picked a pack up at the store… and never took it out of Layne’s car.

So, one night when Layne was at work, I was getting First Gem ready for bed and I realized… we were out of pull-ups and the recently purchased pack were in Salt Lake City. I could pack the girls up and drive a few minutes’ down the road to ShopKo. Or I could even pull a dangerously free-range kids move of leaving the girls for those few minutes.

Or I could just leave my child in panties.

I did the third thing.

I tried to tell myself that First Gem had not had a nap-time pantie accident… ever. Even her longer naps of three or four hours left her dry. Surely this meant her bladder was holding itself while she slumbered. Still, I was a wreck. She insisted on falling asleep in the big bed, a habit we don’t care enough about to stop, and this terrified me all the more. To be sleeping next to a girl who might suddenly start peeing… my ick tolerance could not handle that. I would just wait for her to fall asleep, then I would quietly move her back to her bed.

But then I feel asleep.

Sometime in the night I heard my child grunting uncomfortably, but I was too groggy for the first few minutes to comprehend that she was in panties and in my bed. But as she settled back to sleep, realization struck.

Too late. Too late for recognizing those little grunts as a sleepily surprised girl voiding her bladder. The one mercy was that she had positioned herself head down, her little bottom off our comforter.

So… I cleaned her up, changed her pajamas and panties (new panties!), changed the sheets, and put her to sleep in her own bed.

Surely, she had piddled enough for the night. Surely, she would hold until the morning.

A few hours later I awoke to hear her screaming and crying. My heart heavy, I entered her room to find her once again soaked, a sad little pee-covered girl.

Pajamas and panties changed again.

And… back to her parents’ bed.

Layne gets home at 6ish, and I did not bother telling him our preschooler was in her third panties of the night. I thought it more merciful to let him sleep, only revealing the truth after coaxing First Gem out of bed later that morning toward the potty.

I retrieved the new pack of pull-ups from the car as soon as I could.

 

Mormon-Amish Old-Fashioned Fudge

In recent years, the art of fudge-making has fascinated me. My mom has a classic recipe passed down to her from her mom and everyone has these easy-peasy recipes involving condensed milk and a bag of chocolate chips and the microwave.  But my grandmother’s recipe was also one of condensed milk, and my husband’s grandmother makes her fudge with marshmallow creme and as decadent as these goodies are I wanted to get down and dirty and make fudge the way people without supermarkets made fudge. No shortcuts, just blood, sweat, tears, and chocolate… with preferably only the last one in the treat.

Why do I want fudge this way when modern conveniences allow otherwise? Because I am weird like that and if you’re seeking out the old-fashioned theory of fudge you probably understand.

I first learned of this old-fashioned “other way” when I obtained a copy of Amish recipes from a Freecycle exchange. And the Amish… oh! I may not agree with their theology or, heck, a good much of what they do and how they live, but I have to respect such a humble people of hardworking values. Besides, I have a thing for those Amish romance novels. In the end, old-school, totally American, Amish fudge!

The book boasted two recipes and I tried both several times over the course of several years. And I failed. Miserably. I would either burn the fudge or, more commonly, wind up with a sticky taffy-like mess.

I eventually went to the internet. I looked at other old-fashioned fudge recipes. I read in detail about how they made it, the cooking process.

Eventually, I came up with this recipe, heavily based on those two Amish cookbook recipes and my grandma’s recipe. It’s smooth, it’s creamy, and it takes a fair amount of patience and elbow grease. The fudge tastes all the sweeter for it.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of whole milk

1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

3 tbs of corn syrup

1/8 tsp of salt

2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate, preferably chopped

3 tbs of butter

1 tsp vanilla extract (or other extract of your choice)

1 cup of marshmallows (optional)

Nuts (optional)

 

Take a good sturdy and heavy-bottomed pot, something that won’t accidentally burn your fudge and lavishly butter the sides. Combine milk, sugars, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. From what I gather, low heat, about a 3 or a 4, is the best way to go. Low heat and slow pace here.

Now remember, you are stirring pretty much constantly. And you will be doing this for awhile. I am not kidding. Reserve the better part of an hour to just stir that chocolate mixture.

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I did not chop the chocolate; really, it melts faster if it’s smaller.

 

So, yeah, you are taking about 45 minutes if not longer to just stir this mixture until it starts boiling. So, breathe in and breathe out. Meditate on the chocolate goodness. Watch the smooth dark liquid in your pan. Be mindful of it. Or watch Netflix. I won’t say what I do and I won’t judge the choices of others.

Just make sure you are more or less constantly stirring this. You want to get the sugar to dissolve into the milk before it boils and yeah, the stirring helps with this.

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For a time your pot may seem like it’s holding milk with chocolate specks, but it gets all smooth and glassy.

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Eventually, we get some boiling action. When it starts boiling, you can put down that spoon and rest your stirring hand. From here to a step near the end, just stir occasionally. Remember to keep the heat low, and let that stuff boil away.

After about five minutes I recommend checking the temperature. As you may or may not know, there are two main ways to check the temperature. If you are using a candy thermometer, you’re waiting for this to get to 234-236 degrees. I don’t have a candy thermometer. I used to, but it had a bad run-in with a sink full of water and now I don’t have one anymore. That’s okay. It was free and I think it was off anyway. But many consider a thermometer to be a great piece of modern technology.

The other way is the soft ball method. Get a bowl of cold, cold water and drip some fudge sauce into the water. Quickly gather up that fudge. If you can roll it between your fingers to a soft ball that holds its shape for a few seconds but also collapses or falls apart after a few seconds, you’re golden. It’s a tricky system to master, but after a few recipes trying this, trust me, you’ll probably have that inner knowledge of what to look for. It’s also super old-school.

When you deem your fudge ready, remove it from the heat and toss in the butter and extract. Vanilla is traditional and tried-and-true, but use whatever you want. I know people will put a drop or two of essential oils in as another option. I recommend you don’t stir these in, but rather let them melt atop and seep in.

Now, the mixture cools. This also takes time. Once I made fudge while First Gem was at preschool fifteen minutes away. I let it cool while I went to pick her up, a half-hour round trip not counting the adult chat time with her teachers. Some suggest putting your pot in a frying pan of ice water. During this time, butter a pan for your fudge.

When the pot is lukewarm to the touch, you’re ready.

Now, recall you you spent all that time stirring and stirring and watching for the darn pot to boil? Get ready to again exercise patience and fortitude and strength.

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If you’re adding marshmallows, you may do so for a creamy marshmallow bit. Or you can add them later for marshmallow chunks. I added them first and this picture is downright nauseating, but the result was tasty. Marshmallow chunks or not, do you see how shiny the mixture is?

We don’t want it shiny.

Which means, you are going to take a good strong spoon and stir and beat the heck out of that sludge. This takes a while and it takes patience. Feel free to get helpers to switch off. You are going to stir and stir and stir until the shine is gone. You are going to take this tuff from a shiny hot fudge syrup sort of mess until a duller mixture that better resembles solid fudge. Beat out the shine!

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When it’s gone, you can add marshmallows or nuts or whatever you like and dump it all into your buttered pan. Smooth it out and let it set.

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Fudge. The old-fashioned way.

 

 

Working Moms vs. Stay-at-home Moms

I glanced at the calendar today and noticed I had about three weeks before maternity leave was over and I was back to teaching. Yes, February 1st I was due back, awkwardly somewhere in the term with a Literacy Night performance and conferences on the horizon.

I’m at peace with this fact. I may even be a little more than at peace. My mind is drifting towards all things school. A teacher catalog came in my home mail yesterday and I happily browsed it. Besides, when I return, I will be approaching that downhill slope to the end of the year when things really get fun.

Oddly enough I thought I would be dreading this. And perhaps I will, when the time comes to leave my two gems and return to the grind. But at the moment I’m taking it in stride. My husband Layne and I decided we could afford me to take seven weeks unpaid in the grand scope of the full FMLA twelve weeks and by golly, I’ve enjoyed my maternity leave. My second baby has been a dream baby of a sweetheart. So I goof around, play video games, read, play with the girls… and attempt to become the Ultimate Homemaking Goddess. Can’t decide if that would ever be me. Maybe. But at the moment I don’t know how to be the Ultimate Homemaking Goddess.

And maybe I’m just not meant to be a homemaker.

When Layne graduated from college, First Gem was teeny-tiny and a terrible sick and vomiting baby (we think it was reflux). But Layne was off to spend the summer in Missouri with the military. So I moved in with my parents, learned about taking care of an awful baby, and vaguely assumed Layne would get a fairly high-paying job when he returned and I would just be a housewife. Didn’t happen.

Part of me, and I’m just not sure how big this part is, wants to be a homemaker and stay-at-home mom. I won’t lie that I believe firmly that if possible and reasonable a mom should be home with her babies… at least until the kids are in school. The Proclamation to the Family of my LDS faith puts mothers as the primary nurture and the husband as the provider, though we’ve lately been counseled to work as a husband-wife family-caring team, a concept that leaves plenty of room for tweaking matters for each situation.

But stay-at-home moms, oh! They are truly taking on that role of nurturer, they summon the power of Hestia, they beautify with knickknacks and Pinterest realizations! More importantly, they really and truly are there for their kids, providing that stability and spiritual base.

In a Mommy War, I’d go to bat for the stay-at-home moms any day of the week. Even though I’m a working mom.

Even though I’m a working mom who kind of likes being a working mom.

If I had the choice, I probably would pick to stay at home with my girls. Until they were in school, at which point I would go back to school. Unless we really went deep and  I homeschooled.

Yet, I don’t mind working. I enjoy working, in fact. I love the schedule and the business and getting things done, rather than the chaotic lack of schedule when I’m home. I like money.

I’ve actually prayed for us to be in a better financial situation, namely Layne getting a job that would pay enough that I could quit teaching for the time being. And the answer I receive? “Are you sure this is what you want or is what you think you’re supposed to want?”

Intellectually, I have never had a problem with working moms. The position is justifiable, always has been. My brain was happy to put working moms in a place of helping their families and even helping themselves. The whole feminist thing of showing our daughters women can do so much was a bit trite and obvious, but hey, sure.

This last pregnancy with Second Gem, though, I get it. There’s more to the Working Mom bit than there nothing being wrong with it. There are things that are Right.

I look around at my ward and friends and realize the traditional stay-at-home mom position is no longer what it was. I daresay most of the moms in my ward work at least part time. I can’t count the number of housewives with one little business or another. My sister-in-law works from home for her company.  I know moms working on their master’s degrees, one working on a Ph.D, and even a pal running a small farm.

So is it really so wrong for a mom to work? And is it really so hard for a Working Mom to recognize the sheer awesomeness of the Stay-at-home Mom whether or not she’s running a business or getting her law degree?

I look at the those women who stay home and wonder how in the world they can keep their houses so clean and I praise them for the wonder they do in caring for their kids. And I look at me and realize my gems spend much of the day, due to their parents’ schedules, with one parent or another and realize they are doing just fine and hopefully will continue to do so. I put forth effort to create a positive home where they can learn and grow and those girls will always be more important to me than my students. I’ve gone through the question and even guilt of our situation and decided all is right enough.

And I think I understand the debate a little bit more.